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  • Tamar Balkin

Why Don’t We Ask For Help??

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

“Help me if you can, I'm feeling down  And I do appreciate you being round Help me get my feet back on the ground Won't you please, please help me” The Beatles (click here for the song)

Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

Ask Google “how to ask for help” and there is a plethora of blog posts on the topic.  If you need to, read Adam Grants book Give and Take and you will be convinced to help others. Now more than ever it is essential that we ask for help to be successful. The nature of the modern workplace and structure of  work requires collaboration, delegation and connectivity  for ideas, creativity and advice. Yet people are reluctant to ask for help, especially in the workplace. Or they wait  until they are really “feeling down” before making a tiny request for help.

Why are people reluctant to ask for help?

  • They may be seen as incompetent. i.e. That they don’t know how to do their job.This is actually ironic because if a request is well structured and intelligent you are judged as  smart.

  • They will be seen as lazy.This is a common excuse that prevents many of my clients delegating. However, what they are failing to see is that when done appropriately, delegating tasks to others enables those staff to grow personally and professionally and actually elevates you as a leader.

  • They don’t know anyone who can actually help them.We forget that often people can help by an introduction not a direct solution.  

  • A fear of rejection perhaps because they have previously experienced rejection. This is an interesting one, sometimes people reject us because of timing or because they actually can’t help. However, Daniel Newark when researching helping habits, found that most people, even those who have turned you down before, are more willing to lend a hand than you'd think. In addition the assistance they give is often of much better quality than you'd expect.

  • The mindset that by the time we have asked for help we could have done it ourselves.Studies also suggest that we underestimate how much effort those who do agree to help want to put in.

  • The mindset that it should be obvious help is needed and there is no need to ask. As Heidi Grant, aptly explained in her ted talk,  “we all suffer from the illusion of transparency, - the mistaken belief that our thoughts and our feelings and our needs are really obvious to other people” .

How do we ask for help?

1. Take the time to prepare so that you can be very specific about:

  • What it is you need help with,

  • Why it matters and

  • When you need the help

2. Be confident and don’t apologise 3. Do it in person 4. Follow up, take the time to tell the person how it went, thank them for their advice etc.

On an Organisational or group level you can run a formalised group activity based on the principles of generalised reciprocity. ie you help me and I’ll help someone else.  Some organisations regularly use, reciprocity rings, stand ups or the givitas software to normalise asking for help. (Please contact me for more information and ideas)

How do I convince people to bother? 

According to researcher Wayne Baker, it is one of those situations where, over time the results will speak for themselves. He recommends that you ask your group to behave differently, for about 45 days  and then see and see if and how its working for them.  

Typically when people ask for help they will see the following benefits: 

On a Business level, the team will be more productive and creative.

On an individual level they will find that: 

  • they have saved time at work,

  • their work is more enjoyable and satisfying  and these positive emotions spill over into their life

  • they feel less stressed and overloaded, thereby freeing up energy for other things.

So don’t wait till you are literately or figuratively drowning, take the time to prepare and ask for help. ----------------------------------- References: 

Work and Life with Stew Friedman Episode 155. Wayne Baker: All You Have to Do Is Ask January 22, 2020

Need Someone's Help? Ask the Person Who Just Turned You Down

Newark, Daniel A.Harvard Business Review; Boston Vol. 91, Iss. 12,  (Dec 2013): 34-35. How to Get the Help You Need Heidi Grant Harvard Business Reviews From the May–June 2018 Issue If You Want a Favor, Ask and Ask Again Why the people you least expect to help you are the ones you should approach. September 19, 2013, by Marina Krakovsky, Insights by Stanford business

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